Last week we talked a lot about home here, exploring the value of getting “lost”, as well as some of the ways home can be comfortingly and wistfully defined, depending on whether or not you feel you’re there. We talked about the possibility of there being a heart’s home – how this might be the most possible (and wonderful) home there is.
I’m thinking today about this inner place, and how this “most possible home” can often be so hard to find. The stream of thoughts and fears that anyone who has attempted meditation knows well (and that Angela described so well in the comments on Friday) is with us nearly always. And even when it isn’t with us consciously, our inner dialogues are often the kinds of things we’d never say to those we don’t like, let alone to those we love (Are you seriously feeling that way AGAIN?? Wow, you truly screwed that up. Seriously? – no one could love THAT part of you.).
So here’s an idea for a ritual to help shift us homeward in that deep, inner sense of the word:
Pretend you aren’t just one person, but a community inside. Pretend all of the fearful and unfriendly voices in you are parts of that community, and that they have jobs assigned to them that so far have included the kinds of fearful, unfriendly things they tend to say.
Pretend there is a part of you, though, that isn’t unfriendly at all. Pretend there’s a part that is the safest, most trustworthy person you can imagine. Maybe that part is a woman with gray hair and kind eyes. Maybe it’s a large, gentle man. Maybe it’s some version of yourself at the age you are now that you would feel totally comfortable looking in the eye and receiving a glance of utter love from.
Now pretend that that safest, most trustworthy part of you is singing this song to all the others:
I’m thinking today about readers who are in really rough spots right now – moments or days or entire seasons when fear’s grip is a vice. When that blanket of dark thoughts (Could this possibly by okay? How can I/we make it? Will this really never end?) is heavy and immovable and the thought of it lifting – ever, or at the very least soon – almost funny if it weren’t for how impossible it is right now to laugh.
I’m thinking of people who might be living normal lives on the outside: working, parenting, walking dogs, hanging pictures, picking produce, but who wonder in their deepest, most private places, whether something isn’t truly, fundamentally awful about the way of things – everything, maybe, or even just the way of certain things: a relationship, a responsibility, a circumstance, a life.
I’m remembering a story my therapist told in one of our darkest sessions, a decade ago. She spoke of a Holocaust survivor (I think Victor Frankel, but can’t for the life of me find his Man’s Search for Meaning on my shelves right now to confirm), concluding, ultimately, his long description of the hell that he’d survived with a word so dense with meaning I had to catch my breath when my therapist spoke it.
I hear it and feel my own curled up inner places softening, an invisible thread of hope winding its way slowly through, beneath, alongside the darkest things I know our world to bear. It isn’t in a hurry. It winds its way through the dark things and in between them through things like sunsets, moonrises, the sound of wind through pine-dense forests. It moves alongside lovers, newborns at their mothers’ breasts, quiet glances between friends. Spider webs, river ways, a dandelion bursting through a pavement’s crack.
I don’t know what’s real, exactly, but I know that darkness is felt quite deeply, and that our world is holding all of that darkness while at the very same time an enormous amount of light. And that somehow, when the darkness is most deep, a nevertheless rings gently, resoundingly true. It’s a prayer and an answer, both. A window. A seed. A strength that need not be reached for or clung to because no matter what we do or don’t do with it, the net of it is there. And there. And there. It can catch us.
I hope that in your darkest nights you come to feel it, whether you know it by this name or not.
* For an introduction to the Interview category, click here.
Soon after the launch of this site, Lindsey Mead and I discovered we had a lot in common. Trust is her word of the year, and we quickly recognized each others’ sites as places where we enjoyed some taste of home.
Lindsey writes beautifully about her experiences as a woman trying to make peace with herself and her life and the passage of time. I’m struck again and again as I read her work by her depth of attention to her inner world and to the words and ideas and emotions that populate it. And today, true to my best hopes for these interviews, she unveils the truth of her life, which is that she trusts and she greatly fears; she’s grateful and befuddled; she recognizes purpose in her life’s unfolding and doubts it sometimes completely. In other words, she’s real.
I’m so delighted to introduce her to you, and for the chance to continue our broader conversation on trust with her good words ringing in our ears.
(For those reading via email, click here for audio.)
In response to Friday’s post, Jill commented about having left the comfort of a “practical” job to pursue a dream and a calling to paint. I’m so inspired by stories like this! (thank you, Jill!)
I’m particularly struck in her story by this: she’s right where her heart wants her to be and she’s simultaneously resonating with a song about feeling lost.
This feels hugely important to me.
Because aren’t all of us longing for home in some way? – a dwelling, a community, a job, an environment where we can be known and loved and safe and free to be exactly who and what we are – free to thrive as such, really?
By defining home a certain way, I suspect nearly all of us will live our entire lives believing it’s someplace we’re not, wistful for a dream that never quite makes it into the wanderings and questionings and discomforts of the lives we’re actually living.
Speaking only for myself, I’m weary of longing for home.
So I’m wondering: could a hopeful distinction be made between various types of home that actually unveils some real and grounding and comforting ways we’re truly already there?
So there are physical homes: safe places in and around which to live, rest, decorate, garden, host.
There are social homes: real live people to love and be loved by, to feel safe with and supported by and free to express our full range of humanness around.
There are vocational homes: work situations that utilizes our gifts and skills and provide for our financial needs.
And there are spiritual homes: religions, paths, teachers, practices that feed and heal and inspires our best living.
I’m wondering whether there’s a heart home, too, though (like Jill alludes to in her comment), and whether there’s a way to be wonderfully, comfortingly there even when these other types of home feel far away.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the mountains that many of us are facing and the difference it can make to see our mountains collectively, rather than as challenges we must uniquely face alone. Something about being in this facing-mountains predicament together soothes me, and makes me more patient with the cycles and switch-backs and circling-back-arounds involved in every climb I’ve ever made.
At the same time, there’s no getting around the experience of waking up and living each day inside our own skin, which, for all of the voices that any of us might hear in there, isn’t, truly, a collective endeavor. I must live with my own internal neuroses, my fears, my inner illusions. I must deal with my flow of thoughts and emotions that can be about as predictable as our world’s current weather patterns.
So today I thought I’d post a short ritual that can help with this inherently individual aspect of being human. And more specifically, the inner experience of being overwhelmed. This emotion alone can uproot trust like few others.
So the ritual goes like this (the time it takes you to read it is longer than the ritual itself needs to take):
Find a moment in your day when you can sit silently. Those of you caring for babies or toddlers, this might mean the 60 seconds you’re sitting on the toilet or just after loading the kids’ trays with food. Truly, whatever moment you can find is enough.
As you sit silently, get a general picture in your mind of all the things that are overwhelming you. Imagine each of them occupying a space some distance from your body. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by your commitments list. Maybe it’s the combination of a tough relationship and the daily grind of home and work responsibilities. Maybe it’s a job hunt, or the steps involved in pursuing a dream or making a change you need to make. Maybe it’s all the information you’ve been taking in via books, blogs, websites, news sources, or people.
Whatever it is, imagine it all some distance from your body. If you have only seconds, no need to be too specific in your visualization.
Now imagine that the thought and worry you give to each of these things is actually part of you, part of your energy, so that “you” are not actually separate from these things, but spread out far and wide, across both time and space. You aren’t merely sitting in the room where your body is, but spread into the past and the future, depending on what you’re worrying about, and into the websites and households and workplaces, etc. of everyone and everything on your mind.
Now imagine that with every breath you take in, you are collecting yourself back to your body – sort of like a vacuum cleaner, sucking your energy toward yourself. With every exhale, imagine the energy you’ve collected on your inhale pouring in and around your body, surrounding you.
If you have time, you can focus your inhales on each of the specific things that are overwhelming you, but you can just as easily “collect yourself” in a more general way.
Continue to do this for as long as your moment allows, or until you feel the tightness in your stomach loosening and your heart rate slowing down. And as you finish, take note of what’s around you: the colors, the smells, the sounds, the feel of the chair or floor (or toilet) beneath you. If time is scarce, take note of just one thing – one little thing – that’s in the room where you are. Whether the entire scene, or just one specific thing, hold this in your mind as a reminder of being here, now, and no where else, collected in and right around your body.
That’s it! The results, for me, have been remarkable. If you try it, I’d love to hear what you think.
In my best, most trust-filled moments, I feel hopeful for us all. I feel hopeful for the human capacity to learn and grow and change, for the power of love and trust and time and connection to heal us, for the collective good that gets furthered again and again by so many movements and organizations and legislators and artists and poets and business owners and coaches and therapists and scientists and philosophers and teachers (the list goes on…). I’m profoundly hopeful about the ripples sent out from each individual person making even modest moves toward healing and forgiveness and awareness and love.
I don’t always live inside my best moments, though. And even when I do, I think the reality of life’s hardships requires, at least for many of us, an enormous amount of spiritual and emotional and psychological strength to truly see and maintain hope in the face of.
For this reason, I find myself tearing up on otherwise average days, filled with average (for me) amounts of hope and optimism, when I have occasion to read or hear about or talk with or ponder a person whose trust has roots miles deep and branches just as wide. Trust that big floors me.
The nature of the flooring, though, is what I find so remarkable, because in it, I experience permission to feel simultaneously more hopeful than ever (This kind of trust exists! It’s possible! It’s in my presence now!) and more honest than ever about all the ways I’m afraid and all the places where my reachings for hope have taken and take a very big toll. It’s permission to collapse into a strength that feels, at least most of the time, far more vast than my own.
Martin Luther King Jr is such a strength for me.
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Do you know when he spoke these words? The day before his assassination (Memphis, April 3, 1968).
I read this and I’m floored. Teared up. Collapsed in the very best way.
Do you ever experience this permission I’m trying to describe? – this shelter that holds more hope and more space for honest fear than you know from day to day? Where is it that you find it?
* For an introduction to this “Minings” category, click here.
In the last few days I’ve gotten emails from many of you in response to the image from the “Trust is…” series that finishes that sentence with “…turning off the computer.” I think it’s been resonating so much because, while life-giving on so many levels (social, spiritual, intellectual), computer use has a way of taking us over. It plants weed seeds in our hearts that have big promises: Stay abreast of the coolest writers/essays/artists/projects/courses and you’ll be cool, too. Tweet pithy, clever things and you’ll be highly sought out. Keep people informed of your goings on and you won’t be forgotten.
Promises like these grow roots and stems and leaves, and before we know it, we’re getting suffocated by them. Our sleep, our in-person relationships, our living spaces, our eating and exercise habits: all suffer at the hands of our dear, frightened egos who are utterly convinced that in order to matter and be fulfilled, we must – no option here at all – we must keep up a break neck pace of consuming and/or regurgitating and/or sound-biting information, and we must seek and cleverly maintain an enormous circle of online friends.
As I sit with this tonight, little more than a week into the life of this blog, I’m reminded of my people – my ancestors – and a mining that makes the grip of these weeds…and of my own ego…loosen.
I am from a sabbath-keeping people. I’m from a long line of folks who gave a day a week to rest and honor their God. A day to embody their trust that their worth and deepest fulfillment were rooted in something other than what they could accomplish — were predicated less on their successes and failures, and more on the fact that they were loved.
I’m not at all religious, but the connections between this type of sabbath-keeping and healthy computer use seem striking.
Where are you today on these points? If you have computer weeds, what is the nature of them? Have you discovered any habits or tricks or rituals for keeping them at bay? I’d really love to hear.
For anyone feeling low
or unhelpably stuck.
For anyone fearing
they can’t ever be forgiven.
For anyone feeling
uniquely and unbearably
For moments of that sinking realization that
“you thought you were free
but turned out the chains were just harder to see
because the jewels on the wall of your prison
and you were blinded” (r. brady)
For anyone doubting
their own light
the light of the Universe:
*For those viewing via email, click here for video.
wild and wired, restless and driven, tripping on things that never existed before and you wait
and you hope like hell to be lifted from this puzzle where so many pieces are missing
and the answers don’t answer the question you’re living
they just hint at the mystery that sits patiently at your door
and maybe there are signs but you don’t see them
and maybe there are clues but you can’t read them
so where to from here…
staggering, stumbling, knees scratched and bleeding
don’t know about help but you know you want freedom
but you’re not really sure if you even know what that is
god knows there were times when you thought you were free
turns out that the chains were just harder to see because the jewels on the wall of your prison were beautiful
and you were blinded
and maybe there was a light but you couldn’t see it
and you knew what was right but you couldn’t reach it
but you knew you were climbing for good reason
because the view from the top of this mountain is sweet
and maybe you’re the light but you just don’t see it
born to shine bright but afraid to receive it
the lesson here is just to believe that everything’s fine
This month is one of introductions here, where interviews and posts will paint the broad outlines of a perspective on trust that, with your input, I hope to fill in and expand upon in months and years to come.
With this in mind, I’d like to talk more about Life beyond fear, since this is the North Star by which I navigate my trust tending work, and a concept that blows tremendous wind at my back (a windy star, this Life! :).
So here’s a bit of how I understand the phrase.
Life beyond fear is NOT:
life without fear.
painless and easy.
something accessible to an elite few (who were probably wired for such a thing constitutionally anyway).
Rather, I understand Life beyond fear as:
Life so filled with trust that in it, fear can’t get a solid grip.
It’s life that isn’t free of fear, but life that has established and maintained 1) pathways leading out of fear, and 2) tools for finding and taking those pathways when fear hits.
It’s life when fear is dramatically reduced in size, strength, and staying power from the way it was before trust got consistently tended.
When trust is grown this way, and fear so much diminished, the blocks that keep people from living their boldest, most colorful lives fall away. A power emerges that’s deeper and stronger than rank or force or income or education. Life in its very best sense gets lived.
I’d love to hear your list people who embody this way of living and inspire you to want to live it too. Whether known by many or few, who are your heroes?